Too tired to write tonight, so pictures now and words tomorrow. Today was one of those days when you know exactly why you get up every morning to bust your butt trying to perfect everything - because when it comes together, it is the most amazing feeling in the world! I love my horse!
Thursday addition - after some sleep! I'm not even sure where to start, because I'm still a little overwhelmed. How do you explain to someone (a normal person, who doesn't understand horses - or even someone who rides, but doesn't event) - how do you explain to them why you are an eventer? I love the perfection of dressage. Show jumping is okay (maybe this is the reason it's always been my weakest phase). But the emotion of cross country is overwhelming. And I don't think you really can describe it. The eventers reading this know what I mean. How do you describe the feeling of turning a flight animal into a tiger? A tiger that pounces here, and leaps there, and fearlessly gallops ahead charging at the next challenge with bravery, skill, and perfect balance - and they graciously take you along for the ride. But more than that, this tiger talks to you. He's not panicked or flailing. He's keenly attuned to your every movement. And yet, this horse is a tiger. He's attacking, yet if you told him to stop - he'd do it in a second. How do you explain that feeling? And that synergy doesn't just happen to anyone - not just to any horse or to any rider. It takes developing a partnership. It takes hours and hours in the saddle and on the ground - developing mutual trust and respect. It also takes skill - the rider must have the balance, catlike reflexes, lower leg and core strength, focus.... to keep up with the tiger beneath them. It's why eventers cannot force their horses into submission in dressage. Because event horses save our lives - and they love doing it. And there is nothing in the world like it.
Yesterday's clinic was one of those days. I often wonder if professional riders, who ride horse after horse around course after course - do they still have that XC glow? Do they know how lucky they are? I think they do. Well, obviously, where I'm going with all this is that yesterday, working with Lucinda, was one of those days when you feel like the luckiest person in the world for having discovered this amazing sport, and to be sharing it with an amazing partner!
So, yea, clearly the clinic was great. The CDCTA snafu was a single moment in time. It just had to have been those darn hind boots. This year's clinic had a lot of BN riders sign up, and very few for the higher levels. I am SO grateful that they went ahead with smaller groups - and what an amazing opportunity! There were only 2 of us schooling together with Lucinda yesterday, which meant that we got to pick what we wanted to do. Lucinda started us off with a few things, but then we just went on to work on what we needed help with - and Lucinda was there to guide us. If you have never had the opportunity to audit or ride with Lucinda - find a way. She is the most amazing horsewoman, and she is continuously learning. Her clinics are never routine, and you always learn something new. She had 2 key insights that that really resonated for me that I thought others might enjoy.
1. Coffins. We used to consistently have coffins on courses at prelim and above (15 years ago or so) - and it was always the same thing: vertical, down hill 2 strides, ditch, up hill 2 strides, vertical. They were good fun to ride and quite predictable. Then they disappeared for a while. Now they're coming back, but with skinnies, and turns, and various strides - not predictable at all. And no-one seems to know how to ride them. And the 1/2 coffin has emerged at Training level, with a slightly softer version at Novice. So, I talked with Lucinda for a while about riding these. She said the single most important thing is to communicate 2 things to your horse:
1. There is a ditch on the other side of that jump.
2. You have enough room to land between the jump and the ditch.
I've been thinking about the mistakes people make and what it means to the horse - if you do not develop a "coffin canter" and come galloping down to it (trying to be "brave" or "bold" or whatever), you have not communicated to your horse Lucinda's first critical fact: there is a ditch on the other side. And when they get up to the first jump, they will likely either stop (probably) or try to jump everything at once (wow, I hope not!). Lucinda said if your horse stops at he first element, the best thing to do is come around the back of it and pass between the jump and the ditch, so the horse can see that there is room to land, because the stop was more likely an issue with the horse trying to figure out where to put his feet rather than refusing to go over the ditch.
SShe also said that in practice, you need to teach your horse that when you compress him and focus him, he should be aware that something more is there than he can see. You know something he does not - he needs to look, focus, and be ready to be quick on his feet. Easy enough, right!?
2. The whip as an aid for the horse or rider? Lucinda had us trotting a little trakahner, and Katchi just stuck to the ground a bit as he was taking off. So I reached back and gave him a swat, and he leaped off the ground. Second time around, he jumped it perfectly without a swat. Lucinda commented afterwards that I was just like her - that my timing with the bat was impeccable and that's not something you can teach people - it was spot on and an effective aid for the rider and horse. She said that when she was competing, a lot of times the horse probably would have gotten by with a good kick, and some riders do just that. Others, like her, use the bat at that precise moment, because the rider needs the aid as much as the horse does. And I think she's right (I mean, of course Lucinda is always right!). But, when I think about how I feel when I use the bat at that precise moment - there is something in it that just makes your whole body tell the horse that you said GO GO GO! I guess it's sort of like my own transformation into a tiger!
Well, with that said - back to the pictures...
(oh, and P.S. - I have insider information that Jim Wofford is returning to do the commentary on the Rolex hi-lights DVD this year, so after last year's terrible rambling commentary - the DVD will definitely be worth getting your hands on this year! You can pre-order it at The Sport House. Funny enough, this information did not come from Jimmy! I was so upset with last year's DVD that I wrote to the company pleading for them to bring Jimmy back! They just sent me a message yesterday confirming that he would be back!!! Now that is customer service! Gee, I wonder if I should ask Jimmy for a 10% commission as his agent?! HA HA!)
Lucinda was wearing this furry hat when she hopped up on Katchi yesterday - too funny!
Here's my good friend, Kim, playing in the water jump.
A very sad Katchi got tied to the trailer, so I could take out his studs without fighting the temptation of grass. He was the most offended horse ever! I've never tied him before!